Despite Sing! Global’s popularity, Hosny said he doesn’t expect churches to swing all the way back to the traditional hymnody. But he takes it as a sign of a desire in congregations for a “deeper and richer” theology than what they have been getting.
Adam Perez, assistant professor of worship studies at Belmont University in Nashville, pointed out that the Gettys, with roots in the evangelical Reformed tradition, tend to write and record hymns that explicitly outline doctrinal truths. They provide a sense of theological and missional certainty to listeners, appealing to the desire for certainty in a complex world.
The Gettys are “actually in between the hymn people and the modern worship people,” said Perez. “They’re actually in the middle.”
And they are hardly the only ones to try to preserve the historic hymn tradition. Perez adds that traditional hymns don’t have to come with traditional theology.
Perez recently completed a term on the board for the Hymn Society, founded in 1922, whose own conference is aimed at the people producing, writing and editing hymnals and songs for Presbyterians, Evangelical Lutherans, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics and United Methodists. “The hymns there are much more theologically liberal, much more open to ambiguous poetic devices,” he said.
At Sing! Global, some attendees were less concerned with worship music battles than with the important role that songs of faith have in handing Christianity down by providing a link to the witness of past generations.
“My grandmother was the one that always sang hymns, then my mom sang hymns, so for me it is a connecting, intergenerational faith that shows through hymns, specifically,” said one children’s music director from a Florida church. “I don’t really remember my grandmother necessarily sitting down and saying, ‘Hey, this is Jesus, let me tell you about him,’ but she sang ‘I’ll Fly Away’ while sweeping every day.”
This article originally appeared here.